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[402]

Doc. 120.-operations in Middle Tennessee.


General Rosecrans's report.

headquarters Department of the Cumberland, Winchester, Tenn., July 24, 1863.
General: For the information of the Generalin-Chief and the War Department, I respectfully submit the following report of the preliminaries and operations which resulted in driving the rebels out of Middle Tennessee, from the occupation of Murfreesboro, a point two hundred and twelve miles from the nearest point of supplies.

To enable this army to operate successfully in advance of this position, it was necessary--

1. To establish and secure a depot of supplies at this point.

2. To organize an adequate cavalry force to combat that of the enemy, protect our own line of communication, and take advantage of the enemy should he be beaten or retreat.

The depot was established and in a defensible condition by the first of May, as has been reported, but the inferior numbers of our cavalry and the scarcity of long forage wore out our cavalry horses faster than we could replace them, and it was not before the fifteenth of June that we had brought what we had into available condition.

The General-in-Chief has been informed of the reasons why an advance was not deemed advisable until all things were prepared.

the position of the rebels.

Their main base of supplies was at Chattanooga, but a vastly superior cavalry force had enabled them to command all the resources of the Duck River Valley and the country southward. Tullahoma, a large intrenched camp, situated on the “barrens” at the intersection of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad with the McMinnville branch, was their main depot. Its front was covered by the defiles of Duck River, a deep narrow stream, with but few fords or bridges, and a rough, rocky range of hills which divides the “barrens” from the lower level of Middle Tennessee.

Bragg's main army occupied a strong position north of Duck River, the infantry extending from Shelbyville to Wartrace, and their cavalry on their right to McMinnville, and on their left to Columbia and Spring Hill, where Forrest was concentrated and threatening Franklin.

The position of Bragg's infantry was covered by a range of high, rough, rocky hills, the principal routes passing southward from Murfreesboro toward Tullahoma and line of the enemy's communications.

1. By McMinnville it is seventy-five miles to Tullahoma. Its length precludes it, while the intermediate by-roads between that and Manchester were so difficult as to be regarded as unsuited for the movement of an army; and

2. The Manchester Pike passing these hills through Hoover's Gap and ascending to the “barrens” through a long, difficult canon, called Matt's Hollow.

3. The Wartrace road through Liberty Gap, which passes into the one along the railroad by Bellbuckle Gap.

4. The Shelbyville turnpike running through Guy's Gap.

5. The Middleton dirt road.

6. The road by Versailles, into the Shelbyville and Triune roads, both of which avoid passes and have few defiles.

The enemy held all these passes, and his main position in front of Shelbyville was strengthened by a redan line extending from Horse Mountain on the east, to Duck River on the west, covered by a line of abattis.

Polk's corps was at Shelbyville. Hardee's headquarters was at Wartrace, and his troops held Hoover's, Liberty, and Bellbuckle Gaps. Polk's corps was generally estimated by intelligent rebels and Union men at about eighteen thousand, infantry and artillery; Hardee's, at twelve thousand, infantry and artillery — making a total of thirty thousand of these arms, and probably eight thousand effective cavalry.

Positive information from various sources concurred to show the enemy intended to fight us in his intrenchments at Shelbyville, should we advance by that route, and that he would be in good position to retreat if beaten, and so retard our pursuit through the narrow winding roads from that place which lead up to the “barrens,” and thus inflict severe loss without danger to their own line of retreat to the mountains toward the base. I was determined to render useless their intrenchments, and, if possible, secure their line of retreat by turning their right and moving on the railroad bridge across Elk River. This would compel a battle on our own ground, or drive them on a disadvantageous line of retreat. To accomplish this, it was necessary to make Bragg believe we could advance on him by the Shelbyville route, and to keep up the impression, if possible, until we had reached Manchester with the main body of the army, as this point must be reached over a single practicable road passing through Hoover's Gap, a narrow way three miles in length, between high hills, and then through Matt's Hollow, a gorge two miles long, with scarce room anywhere for wagons to pass each other. These passes were occupied by the enemy, but eight miles from Hardee's headquarters, not more than sixteen miles from their left at Shelbyville.

The plan was, therefore, to move General Granger's command to Triune, and thus create the impression of our intention to advance on them by the Shelbyville and Triune pikes, while cavalry movements and an infantry advance toward Woodbury would seem to be feints designed by us to deceive Bragg, and conceal our supposed real designs on their left when the topography and the roads presented comparatively slight obstacles and afforded great facilities for moving in force. [403]

Events proved that this had the desired effect; and accordingly Bragg called forward Buckner and all the spare troops at his command from East-Tennessee and the lines of the railroads, the last of them arriving on the very evening they began their retreat from their position in front of Duck River. The operations which followed these successful preliminaries were as follows:

On the twenty-third of June, Major-General Granger, under orders, sent General Mitchell, with his cavalry division, on the Eagleville and Shelbyville pike, to make a furious attack on the enemy's cavalry and drive in their infantry guards on their main line, while General Granger, with his own troops and Brannan's division, moved, with ten days rations, to Salem, sending his sick and baggage to the camps at Murfreesboro. On the same day Palmer's division and a brigade of cavalry were ordered to move, via Cripple Creek and Readyville, to the vicinity of Bradyville; his advance to seize the head of the defile leading up to the “barrens” by an obscure road leading them to Manchester by Lumley's Station. All the other troops were ordered to be in readiness to march with twelve days rations of bread, coffee, sugar, and salt; six days meat on hoof, and six days pork or bacon. General Mitchell accomplished his work after a sharp and gallant fight, for the details of which I must refer you to his own report. General Granger arrived and took position at Salem, in pursuance of orders.

The corps commanders met at headquarters in the evening, when the plan of the movement was explained to them, and each received written orders for his part, as follows:

Major-General McCook's corps was to advance on the Shelbyville road, turn to the left, move two divisions by Millersburgh, and, advancing on the Wartrace road, seize and hold Liberty Gap. The third division was to advance on Fosterville, and cover the crossing of General Granger's command from the Middleton road, and then move by Christiana to join the rest of the corps.

General G. Granger was to advance on the Middleton road, threatening that place, and cover the passing of General Brannan's division of the Fourteenth corps, which was to pass by Christiana and bivouac with the rear division of the Twentieth corps.

The Fourteenth corps, Major-General Thomas, was to advance on the Manchester pike, seize and hold with its advance, if practicable, Hoover's Gap, and bivouac so as to command and cover that and the Millersburgh road, so that McCook and himself could be within supporting distance of each other.

Major-General Crittenden was to leave Van Cleve's division of the Twenty-first army corps at Murfreesboro, concentrate at Bradyville with the other two, and await orders.

The cavalry, one brigade under General Turchin, was sent with the Twenty-first army corps to look out toward McMinnville. All the remainder under Major-General Stanley, were to meet General Mitchell coming in from Versailles, and attack the rebel cavalry at Middleton.

The headquarters of the army was to be established at Mrs. McGill's, at Big Spring branch.

All these movements were executed with commendable promptitude and success in the midst of a continuous and drenching rain, which so softened the ground on all the dirt roads as to render them next to impassable.

General McCook's taking of Liberty Gap was very gallant and creditable to the troops of Johnson's division, Willich's brigade leading, supported by Carlin's brigade of Davis's division on the right.

General Reynolds had the advance in the Fourteenth corps, Wilder's mounted brigade leading. He surprised and carried Hoover's Gap, a defile three miles in length, before the main infantry support of the rebels (two brigades) could come up, and when they did arrive, fought them and held the position until the remainder of Reynolds's division arrived. The enemy kept at artillery distance from them, and left us to hold the bridge across the Garrison fork and the debouch of the Fairfield road. For the details of this fight, I refer to the reports of the immediate commanders of the troops.

As it was not yet certain whether the enemy would advance to test our strength on McCook's front or mass on the flank of the Fourteenth corps, near Fairfield, the orders for June twenty-fifth were as follows:

Major-General Crittenden to advance to Lannon's Stand, six miles east of Beech Grove, and open communication with General Thomas.

General Thomas to attack the rebels on the flank of his advance position at the forks of the road, and drive the rebels toward Fairfield.

General McCook to feign and advance, as if in force, on the Wartrace road, by the Liberty Gap passes.

General Stanley with his cavalry to occupy their attention at Fosterville, and General Granger to support him with his infantry at Christiana.

Should Thomas succeed, and find the enemy retreating toward Wartrace, he was to cover that road with a division, and move with the remainder of troops rapidly on Manchester, McCook to move in and taking his place at Beech Grove, holding Liberty Gap with a division, and finally withdrawing that and following Thomas to Manchester. The incessant rain delayed the arrival of General Brannan to join the Fourteenth corps on the Manchester pike; but every thing was finally in position, and General Reynolds's division had advanced on the heights toward Fairfield, but did not attack the enemy, who appeared to show a disposition to contest our advance by that route. At Liberty Gap the enemy tried to regain possession, but finally retreated, leaving our pickets in position.

On the twenty-sixth, most of the movements ordered for the twenty-fifth were completed, amid continuous rains. Generals Rousseau, Reynolds, and Brannan's divisions cooperated in a gallant [404] advance on the enemy, who after a short resistance fled toward Fairfield, near to which place our pickets were advanced, while Reynolds's divison and the baggage moved forward during the night toward Manchester, Wilder's brigade having seized Matt's Hollow early in the afternoon, and thus secured the passage.

June twenty-seventh, headquarters reached Manchester, where General Reynolds's and part of Negley's division had already arrived. The remainder of Thomas's corps came in during the night. It was now manifest that the enemy must leave his intrenched position at Shelbyville, and that we must expect him at Tullahoma, only twelve miles distant. It was therefore necessary to close up our column on Manchester, distribute our rations, and prepare for the contest.

While this was progressing, I determined to cut, if possible, the railroad in Bragg's rear. Wilder's brigade was sent to burn Elk River bridge and destroy the railroad between Decherd and Cowan, and Brigadier-General John Beatty, with a brigade of infantry, to Hillsboro, to cover and support his movements.

General Sheridan's division came in June twenty-eighth, and all McCook's corps arrived before the night of the twenty-ninth, troops and animals much jaded.

The terrible rains and desperate roads so delayed Crittenden, who on the twenty-sixth got orders to march to Manchester with all speed, that it was not until the twenty-ninth that his last division arrived, badly worn. The column being now closed up, and having divisions of the Fourteenth and Twentieth corps at Crumpton's Creek, orders were given for the Fourteenth corps to occupy the centre at Concord Church and Bobo Cross-Roads, with a division in reserve.

The Twentieth corps to take the right on Crumpton's Creek, two divisions in echelon retired, one in reserve. The Twenty-first corps to come up on the left, near Hall's Chapel, one division front and one division in reserve.

It rained almost incessantly during the thirtieth, but the troops, by dint of labor and perseverance, had dragged their artillery and themselves through the mud into position. It is a singular characteristic of the soil on the “barrens,” that it becomes so soft and spongy that wagons cut into it as if it were a swamp, and even horses cannot pass over it without similar results. The terrible effect of the rains on the passage of our troops may be inferred from the single fact that General Crittenden required four days of incessant labor to advance the distance of twenty-one miles.

While the troops were thus moving into position, General Thomas sent Steadman's brigade of Brannan's division,two regiments of Reynolds's division, and two regiments of Negley's division, on separate roads, to reconnoitre the enemy's position, while General Sheridan sent Bradley's brigade of his own division on another for the same purpose. These reconnoissances all returned and reported having found the enemy in force on all roads except the one leading to Estill Springs. Scouts all confirmed this, with the fact that it was the general belief that Bragg would fight us in his intrenchments at Tullahoma.

Wilder returned from his expedition, reporting that he found the enemy at Elk Bridge, with a brigade of infantry and a battery, which prevented him from destroying that bridge; but he had damaged the road considerably at Decherd, where his appearance with his mountain howitzers created great consternation, and within three hours brought down some heavy trains of infantry.

Meanwhile we had information that Stanley's cavalry, supported by Major-General Granger's infantry, and acting under his general directions, had attacked the enemy's cavalry and artillery at Guy's Gap, on the Murfreesboro and Shel byville pike, and driven them from stand to stand, killing, wounding, and capturing as they went, until the enemy reached their intrenchments, from which they were soon driven by flanking and a direct charge, wherein the cavalry captured three pieces of artillery, some with loads in, but not rammed down.

From their intrenchments the rebels fled to town, when they made another stand, but in vain. Our cavalry came down with resistless sweep, and drove them in confusion into the river. Many were killed and drowned, and Shelbyville, with a large number of prisoners, a quantity of arms and commissary stores, were the crowning results of the cavalry operations that day. It was worthy of note that the waving of flags and cheers of welcome from the inhabitants of this unconquerable stronghold of loyalty, doubtless added vigor and energy to the advance of our troops. The reports from this cavalry battle showed also the enemy's withdrawal on Tullahoma, and the general expectation that he would fight there.

June thirtieth, orders having been given to General Morton to ascertain the practicability of moving by column in mass in line of battle from our position, to gain the rear of the rebel position at Tullahoma, and who reported favorably thereon, preparations were completed, and Crittenden's Second division was moved into position.

July first, I received a despatch from General Thomas that the enemy had retreated from Tullahoma during the night.

Brannan's, Negley's, and Sheridan's divisions; entered Tullahoma, where the infantry arrived about noon. Negley's and Rousseau's divisions pushed on by Spring Creek, and overtook the rear-guard of the enemy late in the afternoon, at Bethpage Bridge, two miles above the railroad crossing, where they had a sharp skirmish with the rebels occupying the heights, south side the river, and commanding the bridge by artillery, which they had placed behind epaulements.

July second, having brought forward the ammunition, McCook with two divisions pursued on the roads west of the railroad. Arriving at Rock Creek ford, General Sheridan found Elk so swollen as to be barely fordable for cavalry, and [405] the rebel cavalry on the south bank to resist a crossing, but he soon drove them away and occupied the ford. General Thomas found equal difficulties in crossing, for the enemy during the night burned the bridge and retired before morning. General Turchin, with a small brigade of cavalry, had pushed forward from Hillsboro, on the Decherd road, and found the enemy's cavalry at the fords of Elk, near Morris Ferry; engaged them coming up, and, reenforced by the arrival of General Mitchell, they forced the passage of the river after a sharp conflict. Night closed the pursuit.

July third, General Sheridan succeeded in crossing Elk River, and, supported by General J. C. Davis's division, pursued the enemy to Cowan, where he. learned the enemy had crossed the mountains with his artillery and infantry by University and Sweden's Cove, and that the cavalry only would be found covering their rear. General Thomas got over his troops the same day, Negley's division moving on the Brakefield Point road toward the University. Sheridan sent some cavalry from his position, and Stanley some from the main column, now in pursuit, but they only developed the fact that the enemy was gone, and as our troops were out of provisions, and the roads worn well-nigh impracticable from rain and travel, they were obliged to halt till their supplies could be brought forward from Murfreesboro, to which point the wagons had been sent for that purpose.

Thus ended a nine days campaign, which drove the enemy from two fortified positions, and gave us possession of Middle Tennessee, conducted in one of the most extraordinary rains ever known in Tennessee at that period of the year, over a soil that becomes almost a quicksand. Our operations were retarded thirty-six hours at Hoover's Gap, and sixty hours at and in front of Manchester, which alone prevented us from getting possession of his communications, and forcing the enemy to a very disastrous battle. These results were far more successful than was anticipated, and could only have been obtained by a surprise as to the direction and force of our movement.

For the details of the action at Liberty Gap, Hoover's Gap, Shelbyville, and Rover, I beg to refer to the reports of Major-Generals Thomas, McCook, and Stanley, and the accompanying sub-reports.1

Bearing testimony to the spirit and gallantry of all, both officers and men, I must refer to the reports of the several commanders for the details thereof. I am especially proud of and gratified for the loyal support and soldierly devotion of the corps and division commanders, all the more touching to me as the movement was one which they regarded with some doubt, if not distrust. It affords me pleasure to return my thanks to Major-General Granger and Major-General Stanley, commanding the cavalry, for their operations on our right, resulting in the capture of Shelbyville; and to General Granger for subsequently despatching our supplies when they were so pressingly needed.

Coloner Wilder and his brigade deserve a special mention for long-continued exertions, enterprise, and efficiency in these operations. Colonel Wilder ought to be made a brigadier-general. Colonel Minty, who commanded the advance on Shelbyville, for gallantry on that and many other occasions, merits the like promotion.

The management of the medical department was worthy of all praise. I cannot forbear to make special mention of the energy, ability, foresight, and devotion to duty of Dr. Perin. His superior in these qualities has not fallen under my observation.

All my staff merited my warm approbation for ability, zeal, and devotion to duty, but I am sure they will not consider it invidious if I especially mention Brigadier-General Garfield, ever active, prudent, and sagacious. I feel much indebted to him for both counsel and assistance in the administration of this army. He possesses the instincts and energy of a great commander.

The reports of the corps commanders herewith show our total loss during these operations was:

Killed.Wounded.Missing.
Officers,1426
Non-Commissioned officers and privates,7143613
Total,8546218

We captured----stand small arms, eight field-pieces, six caissons, three limbers, three rifled siege-pieces without carriages, besides arms destroyed by the cavalry. Quartermasters' stores: eighty-nine tents, eighty-nine flies, three thousand five hundred sacks corn and corn-meal.

The total number of prisoners taken, as will be seen by the accompanying report of the Provost-Marshal General, Major Wiles, is fifty-nine commissioned officers, and one thousand five hundred and seventy-five non-commissioned officers and privates.

Before closing this report, I call the attention of the General-in-Chief and the War Department to the merits and ability of Captain W. E. Merrill, the engineer, whose successful collection and embodiment of topographical information, rapidly printed by Captain Morgadanti's quick process, and distributed to corps and division commanders, has already contributed very greatly to the ease and success of our movements over a country of difficult and hitherto unknown topography. I sincerely trust the War Depart ment will show its appreciation of the merits and services of this promising young officer, who fortified the frontiers of Western Virginia, lingered in a rebel prison for six months, was wounded at Yorktown, and who put in order and a state of defence the Kentucky Railroad, injured by Bragg and Kirby Smith.

[406]

1 For these Reports see Supplement.

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Shelbyville, Tenn. (Tennessee, United States) (11)
Manchester, Tenn. (Tennessee, United States) (10)
Tullahoma (Tennessee, United States) (9)
Hoover's Gap (Tennessee, United States) (7)
Wartrace (Tennessee, United States) (6)
Tennessee (Tennessee, United States) (6)
Fosterville (Tennessee, United States) (6)
Murfreesboro (Tennessee, United States) (5)
Fairfield (Tennessee, United States) (5)
McMinnville (Tennessee, United States) (3)
Matt Hollow (Tennessee, United States) (3)
Duck River (Tennessee, United States) (3)
Decherd (Tennessee, United States) (3)
Christiana (Tennessee, United States) (3)
Versailles, Tenn. (Tennessee, United States) (2)
Salem (Massachusetts, United States) (2)
Pond Springs (Tennessee, United States) (2)
Millersburgh (Tennessee, United States) (2)
Fosterville (Tennessee, United States) (2)
Crumpton's Creek (Tennessee, United States) (2)
Columbia, Tenn. (Tennessee, United States) (2)
Bradyville (Tennessee, United States) (2)
Yorktown (Virginia, United States) (1)
Winchester (Tennessee, United States) (1)
West Virginia (West Virginia, United States) (1)
Washington (United States) (1)
Triune (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Spring Hill (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Spring Creek (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Rover, Tenn. (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Readyville (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Morris Ferry (Arkansas, United States) (1)
Halls Chapel (Alabama, United States) (1)
Franklin (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Estill Springs (Tennessee, United States) (1)
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